UPPER MONTCLAIR, NJ - The Red Bulls are concentrating on Sunday’s home opener at Red Bull Arena, a match against a strong Colorado Rapids side.
Last season at home, New York battled Colorado to a 2-2 draw after goals from Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers were leveled out by a Jeff Larentowicz brace. The Rapids midfielder will not have the chance to repeat his good fortune at Red Bull Arena Sunday, due to his suspension after he was shown a second yellow in the 58th minute of Colorado’s road win against the Philadelphia Union Sunday.
Coach Hans Backe is aware of the quality of the opposition for the home opener, but is also confident that the squad will be able to bounce back from two road defeats.
“They’ve started very well,” Backe said. “I saw the game against Philadelphia. They are, as always, a hard-working team. They look a little bit more possession-minded this year in the build up and from the back line—solid team, defend well, strong.”
Defender Stephen Keel, a Colorado native, also expects a solid Rapids side Sunday. Keel plied his trade with Colorado earlier in his career and is familiar with the attacking options the Rapids possess, as well as strengths in other key areas on the pitch.
“They’re solid in every position on the field from the goalkeeper all the way forward up to Omar,” Keel said. “Omar Cummings up top is a solid, dangerous player. He’s got his pace and he’s scoring goals. When you look in the middle, you got a guy like Pablo (Mastroeni) who is captain and runs things in there, so they have key players, dangerous players, so it’s going to be about minimizing that and executing on our end.”
The first two matches proved to be against teams with high percentages of possession – even though the Red Bulls edged out both Dallas and Real Salt Lake in that category - but Backe is expecting a different philosophy to be practiced by coach Oscar Pareja’s squad.
“Perhaps this will be a little bit of a different game because both Dallas and Salt Lake are very good possession sides, and Salt Lake is probably the best possession side in the league, and I don’t think it will be that kind of possession-minded game,” Backe said.” “It will be a little bit more of a direct game on Sunday.”
Colorado’s direct play can be attributed to their aggressive, tough-tackling mentality. For Red Bulls midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, this will be a key aspect in Sunday’s match.
“They’re a team that will get stuck in, they will get in your face, they’ll throw tackles in early on,” Ballouchy said. “I think if we can add that on to our game, I think we will be a better side.”
New York has not lost to Colorado in Red Bull Arena, and they are determined to make their home a “fortress.”
“I think that’s a mentality where anyone that comes in there knows they’re in for a hard day, and they’d be lucky to get away with anything,” Keel said. “Our mindset is we want to make Red Bull Arena a fortress, and pick up three points every time we’re at home.”